Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Journey Review

Every once in awhile you will find a game that stands out from everything else. This can be for a variety of reasons from negative things like ridiculous game breaking bugs that should never have been in the release build of a game (looking at you Ubisoft) or any number of controversial issues. In a more positive light, however, a game can leave an impression on the player that they remember for years to come. Journey is the latter. Back when it first came out on Playstation 3 in 2012, Journey provided a very unique and memorable experience. In a way, Journey is the kind of game that could be considered art that you, the player, experience. Journey was developed by ThatGameCompany, whom are known for making games like Flow and Flower, and if you have played those then you know that you are in for a highly memorable experience.

Journey is a very simple game. You play as a entity draped in a red cloak and your objective is to reach a mysterious mountain out in the distance. That is it. As the saying goes, it's not the destination but the journey that matters. Between you and the mountain is a vast desert littered with ruins of some long lost civilization. As you progress, a story unfolds through visions at the end of each level. There is no dialogue and you are not told directly what happens. This is one of Journey's many strengths, the fact that it allows you to piece the story together yourself and figure out what it all means.

While you start the journey completely alone, Journey incorporates a very interesting element of multiplayer into the game where you can encounter a second player while traveling toward the mountain. You can't see the name of the player and you can't communicate to them with voice chat either. The only form of interaction in this game is a music tone that your character makes when pressing the circle button. It is entirely up to you whether you choose to travel with this other player or go at your own pace, but having someone along for the trip makes the haunting world of Journey a little less lonely.

Journey could be considered a combination of a walking game (like Dear Esther) and a three dimensional platformer. Although as far as difficulty goes, Journey is fairly easy and devoid of challenging gameplay in favor of presenting an experience. ThatGameCompany knew exactly what kind of game they wanted Journey to be, and did not put in unnecessary mechanics at any point. They made it very easy to figure out how to navigate through the levels with a very simplistic control scheme that doesn't require a UI. 
This is a screenshot of actual gameplay, notice the lack of UI (User Interface).
 On the Playstation 3, Journey looked incredible and it looks even better on the Playstation 4. The environments have a great amount of detail and the vast sand dunes look great. Sand moves seemingly dynamically based on your movement and the sunlight reflecting off of the sand results in some very beautiful lighting effects throughout the game.

There are only a handful of games that could be considered artistic experiences that experiment with how story is told in a video game, but Journey is the prime example of how video games can tell stories in ways that other forms of entertainment like books and movies can't. Of course, Journey is the kind of game that won't appeal to everyone. If you are open minded to something that is a little out of the ordinary from what you'd expect from a video game, then I recommend Journey. It may be a short experience, but it is worth every penny.

RBFB Rating: A+

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